T5 interview with SGR driver Wendy Kathambi
Wendy Kathambi Kagendo is a Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) Passenger Train Locomotive Driver, and TikTok content creator.
How does one become a passenger locomotive driver? What course did you study and how long did it take?
You will be required to have either a degree or diploma in electrical or mechanical engineering, or have prior experience in train operation. Qualified trainees are taken through rigorous theory and practical training in locomotive maintenance, locomotive inspection and locomotive operation for about six months. Furthermore, the trainees undergo continuous training in fieldwork until they graduate to become passenger locomotive drivers.
How do you feel about the SGR project as a whole, in terms of creating jobs for Kenyans and improving transport in Kenya?
The project has impacted many Kenyans by creating temporary and permanent job opportunities. The SGR project has also revolutionised the transport industry in Kenya as it is the most preferred mode of transport for both passengers and cargo between the Mombasa-Malaba route.
Kenya, being a third-world country, is no different from its contemporaries where traffic jams have always been a menace, especially in major cities. The government should now think of introducing metro trains to ease traffic.
What does a normal day at work look like for you? When do you find time to make TikTok videos?
My workdays are different since I work in shifts. Normally, after reporting to work, I sign in at the locomotive dispatch office where I receive the required working tools. From there I proceed to do the preliminary locomotive inspection before starting the locomotive engine and conducting airbrake and electrical tests. After confirming that everything is in good condition, I proceed to the station, guided by the rail signals for locomotive and rolling stock coupling. Once all the passengers have boarded and it is time for the train to depart, I start the train operation from Nairobi to Mombasa and vice versa.
I usually make the videos when I am done with my trip and also on my rest days. I like creating inspiring content challenging young women to defy stereotypes and take up challenges in male-dominated careers, and to shine while at it.
My TikTok videos are about work, dance and lip-syncing.
There are many Kenyans who are being paid by TikTok for advertising various products. What are your thoughts on the development of influencer marketing in Kenya?
To attract any brand, one needs to create high quality content. That way, you are able to attract viewers and increase your following. This can only be achieved through hard work and persistence. I have seen a number of content creators bag endorsement deals with various companies as brand ambassadors and marketers. This model of marketing is still relatively new in Kenya, but it is proving to be effective, and more content creators are getting motivated to join the bandwagon.
If you could meet one famous local or international TikToker, who would it be?
Flaqoraz makes my days with his comic acts. I find his content very interesting, especially after a long day of work. Azziad is also among my favourites. Her hard work and determination is incredible.